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Five Things We Learned: Sept. 12

1. Familiar Foe: While Steven Jackson's new team hosts his old team and very familiar teammates this weekend in the Georgia Dome, there's also a homecoming of sorts from the St. Louis Rams side. Returning to Atlanta is former offensive lineman Harvey Dahl, a key veteran starter on the line for the Rams. Defensive tackle Corey Peters was a teammate with Dahl on the Falcons during Peters' rookie season in 2010. Peters said Dahl's hard-nosed reputation is earned honestly and the Falcons defense will need to be prepared to contend with a player that plays with a to-the-whistle mentality: "For the most part he's a good player. He does toe the line, but you've just always got to protect yourself at all times and be prepared for anything."

2. Trueblood Getting Up to Speed: With left tackle Sam Baker out of Wednesday and Thursday's practices, new O-line addition Jeremy Trueblood saw some time with the first-team offense at right tackle. The seven-year veteran tackle joined the team during Week 1 and has been working to get up to speed ever since. Trueblood said he's been using flash cards, a study system that he's relied on since he was a rookie in 2006, to learn the Falcons offense and this week's time with the first teamers was beneficial: "I thought it was an opportunity to get out there and get with our offense calling out plays, doing our terminology. I thought that was really beneficial for me. I've just been going from there."

3. Open Communication: The Falcons offensive line has been talking about improving their communication this week, but everyone may not be clear on what it is they mean. Center Peter Konz said the communication they're focused on is sharing nuances of what they see in a defense in front of them with each other. In practice, the coaching staffs are setting things up to require the five O-linemen to communicate together to ensure they're all on the same page. The center said they're not making assumptions that they all see the same things, so they need to make sure they're pointing out everything, even if it's obvious: "If I see something in the defense that alerts us to a blitz, instead of being a young, quiet guy assuming that everybody knows, I can speak up. That goes for everybody. If we just see little things in the defense, it gives us a tip, it gives us a reminder. Even coming down to the chains. If it's third-and-2, third-and-1, I want everybody talking about. It just helps you get the right mindset of knowing what you need to do. Obviously third-and-short is a lot different from second-and-6 technique wise."

4. Protect Better Everywhere: The protection issues that led to three sacks of Matt Ryan last week weren't just limited to the offensive line. While the line knows they have to improve the protection and are working on their communication to be more in sync, other players on offense know they have to step their pass protection games up as well. Even the veteran and future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez knows he can do better since one of those three sacks came from his side: "I gave up a sack last week and I haven't done that in 13 years. It's embarrassing, but it's one of those things you can look at early in the season and I'll make sure it doesn't happen again. All of us have to keep Matt upright and in that pocket nice and clean so he can throw the ball down the field."

5. Always Protect the QB: The first quarter hit on Matt Ryan from New Orleans' safety Kenny Vaccaro resulted in an unnecessary roughness penalty during the game and earlier on Thursday he was fined by the league. Falcons head coach Mike Smith didn't have any comment on the penalty or the fine except to say when he saw the hit, he anticipated a fine eventually. Smith did say he has mandated his players protect their quarterback and while he doesn't condone physical retaliation or penalty-inducing moves, he thinks there are plenty of things that can be said to get the point across. The bottom line with the Falcons and around the league is that the quarterback has to be protected by everyone: "We'll protect the quarterback if you're close to him. I think that's what every coach does. We are going to protect one another. We've got one another's back at all times. That's what you've got to do and I think that's pretty much standard across the league."

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